Indie publishing secrets of success

ImageI’ve not read any of Barbara Freethy’s fiction. Before today, I had no idea who she was – this despite her being a no 1. New York Times best selling author with more than 30 novels (where’ve I been?) to her name. But I like her already – a judgement based simply on some recent blog posts of hers in which she gives advice to other writers from a grounded and extremely modest perspective. That without downplaying her incredible success.

And it’s success by many measures:

* Numbers: 2.7 million ebooks sold since January 2011.

* Lifestyle: writing full-time about subject and characters that interest her

* Accolades: rave reviews, awards and editors’ picks

So, what’s her advice? 

1. Write lots: “My best advice, having watched how my books have performed the last two years, is to write a lot of books! I’ve discovered that every new book raises the tide on sales for the previous ones.”

2. Don’t get sucked into the marketing and forget you’re a writer: “I honestly think writing the next book is a more important and a better use of your time than investing too many hours or too many dollars into promotion. I do still believe in Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest and other social media experiments but only on a limitied basis. Don’t spent all your time tweeting! Author newsletters are also great so that you can alert your readers to a new book.”

3. Envisage a longer term strategy: “I hope writers will think of self publishing (or traditional publishing) as a career. You’re not going to write just one book, you’re going to write many! And anyone who reads your first book and loves it is going to want to read the second. Plus, from a practical standpoint it is easier to promote and sell books when you can offer a sale price on the first book in a series or even just to another book you’ve written.”

4. Be professional. “Hiring the right team of editors, artists, marketing, whatever you need to put out a professional product, is very important. The readers can be harsh in their reviews. So you want to put out the best book you can. There are a lot of great freelancers available for anything you need. Take advantage of them!”

And why indie publishing rather than traditional (she’s already had dozens of books published by traditional publishers)?

“While I’ve enjoyed my experiences with traditional publishing, I’m currently pursuing my own path. I enjoy the freedom to write what I want and publish as frequently as I can, so that my readers will no longer have to wait a year in between books for the next installment in a series.”

And finally, let’s be honest. What are the downsides of self- or independent publishing?

“It is a tremendous amount of work. A self publisher has to wear many hats, not just writer, but editor, proofreader, technical formatter, cover designer, marketer, pricing expert … it’s exhausting. But it’s also very rewarding. There is a bigger piece of the pie for self published authors in terms of royalties, but there is a trade off in the amount of work the self publisher has to do.”

Barbara Freethy has an FAQ section on her website in which she gives more advice, as well as background on where her ideas come from, and resources on offer to book clubs (now there’s a great marketing idea we can learn from!)

Plus she elaborates more on how she achieved her success in this Kirkus Review.


Pride – Confessions of a Publishing Aid in Africa

Warning: gushings ahead.

Sorry, I can’t help myself. After how many years in the business, I still just love, love, love that moment when you unwrap that single proof copy of a new book from the printer, and feel the weight of it in your hand, and you page carefully through it, possibly remembering to breathe…

Today another book was born. That book is called ‘Shame – Confessions of an Aid Worker in Africa’, written by Jillian Reilly. Authored and funded by Jillian, it was produced by a specialist team of experienced professionals all passionate about what they do, and obsessed with creating great products of high quality.

THAT is what independent publishing is.

Yes, we are using the tools of self-publishing to get this book to the international market – in this case, Lulu for print on demand, and KDP for producing the Kindle edition. But those are just print and distribution service providers. The actual work in producing the book – the editing, design, typesetting – was not done on the cheap, and no corners were cut. [Full disclosure, in case this hasn’t been abundantly clear already: my small company, Moonshine Media, helped Jillian with the strategy and production management.]

I am so proud of Shame.

Help! I’ve got a book in me

About time too…

I’ve been planning to do this talk and series of workshops for a while now. Wanted to have it perfect before I started, but there’s been so much demand, I’ve finally just jumped in. Here’s the info we sent out in the weekly newsletter for the local indie bookstore, Kalk Bay Books:

Do you have a special story or gift of knowledge to share?

Perhaps you’ve been somewhere amazing or done something incredible…
Perhaps your life has brought you experiences from which others can learn…
Maybe your wild imagination has conjured a fantasy that would entertain and delight…

You might have written it all down already, or perhaps you’re still wondering whether it’s even worth it.

What to do next?
How do you send your manuscript or idea to a publisher? (And, if so, which one?)
What can you expect from them?
What are your self-publishing options?
What’s this business of independent publishing?

Actually, hang on… what’s the business of this whole thing altogether? Is there money? What’s in it for whom?

You have questions. Dominique le Roux and Ann Donald have answers and suggestions.

Join us for an evening of publishing talk in which we’ll map out your options for you as a South African author-to-be.

You’ll leave knowing:
• The pros and cons of traditional vs independent publishing
• How to pitch your book to a publisher
• How to create and sell an ebook (and where Apple, Amazon and Kindle fit into the whole story)
• What really sells
• How others like you have done it.

Dominique le Roux was previously a publishing manager at Struik, and now runs Moonshine Media(, a consultancy that specialises in helping others tell their stories. (And sell them, of course.)

Ann Donald is a former journalist and magazine editor, and is now the proprietor of Kalk Bay Books, with knowledge to share on which books sell, how to sell them, and who to sell them to.

If this sounds like information you could use, then make sure you don’t miss the opportunity…

[Update: The response was overwhelming and we were almost immediately oversubscribed. Plenty more of these to come. And I had a lot of fun doing it.]